If Bernard King does indeed make a successful return to the NBA this year, he'll be rewarded with more than just a feeling of great accomplishment.
The New York Knicks' forward, once one of the NBA's most explosive scorers, tore up his right knee two years ago and hasn't played since. Recently, he began practicing with New York, and last week sat on the bench as his club was routed in Milwaukee.
Rather than take another 6-7 months of rehabilitation and come back even stronger at the start of next season, King wants to play before this year is out.
Reportedly, he needs to play at least one game this season to collect $200,000 from his sneaker contract. And more important, a successful return would go a long way in contract negotiations for next year. King's pact, which pays a reported $800,000 a year, expires with this season.
"I don't need to play basketball, but I love to play basketball," said King. "That's why I came back. I owe it to myself to see where I am. I progressed as far as I could on my own. Hopefully, in two weeks I'll be 100% better than I am now. And where I am now I consider a major comeback."
Observers say King has shown flashes of his former All-Star self, but is a bit overweight and has trouble moving to his right. Still, Knicks Coach Bob Hill has been impressed.
"He really looks good," Hill said. "His shot was there, he moved well. The only thing he doesn't have, and this is understandable, is the explosiveness like he's capable of. But with conditioning, he should come back."
Portland director of player personnel Bucky Buckwalter told the Chicago Tribune last Sunday that he would not trade Clyde Drexler for the Bulls' Michael Jordan. Buckwalter was a Trail Blazers' assistant coach when the team drafted oft-injured center Sam Bowie ahead of Jordan in 1984.
That, obviously, has proven to be a monumental mistake.
"Jordan can score a lot of points," said Buckwalter, "but the thing Drexler does that Jordan doesn't is help out his teammates."
When that comment was relayed to Chicago Coach Doug Collins, he was furious. The Bulls were beaten 115-113, but Jordan, the league's leading scorer, poured in 46 points while Drexler had half that many.
Collins told the Tribune after the game: "I would like to ask Bucky if he would trade Jordan for Drexler now. And if not, he should be checked for a brain tumor."
San Antonio Coach Bobby Weiss has been giving less time to All-Star guard Alvin Robertson and more to Johnny Moore and Johnny Dawkins. Weiss is said to be upset that Robertson turns the ball over too much and plays poor one-on-one defense.
"He was making too many mistakes," Weiss said of Robertson this week.
The coach has criticized Robertson for gambling too much on defense. That allows Robertson to lead the league in steals, but also enables opponents to score many easy baskets.
Notes Milwaukee rookie Scott Skiles is out for the year with a protruding disk in his back, but he's been going through informal workouts with the team. . . . Game 7 of the NBA finals, if necessary, is scheduled for June 16, which would be the latest ever in the calendar year. Now, the league is thinking of moving up the start of next season one week to Nov. 6, which would extend the NBA year even further.